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State will develop own plan for EPA’s power plant rules

September 8, 2015

Michigan will be developing its own plan to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new regulations for existing power plants, state officials announced Tuesday.

In a conference call hosted by the Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), DEQ Director Wyant said rather than waiting for a federal implementation plan to be finalized, “a state plan can provide and should provide more certainty and more flexibility than a federal plan.” 

Since the specifics of the federal implementation plan are still unknown, Wyant characterized Michigan’s decision to craft its own implementation plan as the state avoiding “a pig in a poke” and “a risk that we just don’t feel is acceptable.” 

Ensuring the road to compliance with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is “tailored for Michigan” was the refrain from Wyant and MAE Director Valerie Brader.  

“We believe that this is the best path forward for the state to protect Michigan ratepayers and energy providers,” Brader said. “Not to do so would put Michigan’s energy decision-making in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, DC.” 

If the announcement itself was not a clear indication Governor Rick Snyder’s administration would not contest the EPA’s rule, Brader made things explicit. 

“At this time, there are no plans for this state to join the current challenges (to the Clean Power Plan),” Brader said. 

Whether Attorney General Bill Schuette will join the multi-state suit challenging the EPA rule has not been announced, but sources said Schuette was seriously considering it. 

Schuette’s spokesperson Andrea Bitely revealed little except to say he “remains committed to stopping overregulation and excessive mandates from the EPA.” 

As the Legislature works to craft its own energy plan by the end of the year, many Republican lawmakers have been vocal in their concerns about the Clean Power Plan, but have stressed the importance of Michigan determining its own destiny when it comes to its energy future. 

In a statement released Tuesday, Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he was pleased the state would develop its own plan for Michigan’s air quality, but added that in other areas the best course of action could be to not react to federal government mandates at all.  

“I still believe that what the Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to do here is an overreach and an abuse of federal power,” Shirkey said. “They’re simply trying to mandate things they are not authorized to place on us. I believe we need to come up with our own plan — something we would be doing anyway — and in many cases I can see our plan and the federal plan dovetailing. 

“But let us be clear: The state has no interest in allowing the federal government to supersede what is best for Michigan, and devising our own plan should in no way be interpreted as condoning an EPA run amuck.” 

Exactly how Michigan will move to achieve compliance with EPA regulations is not yet clear. The state will have until Sept. 6, 2016, to submit an initial plan, at minimum. With extensions, Michigan officials would have to submit a final, enforceable plan by Sept. 6, 2018. 

State officials said Tuesday that they would likely need to run out the clock. 

“We do think we’re going to need basically every second they’ve given us to meet the first and the final deadline,” Brader said. 

She noted that while the administration didn’t anticipate any legislation would be needed to enforce the plan, it will “require us to move through our administrative rules process, which is a lengthy process.” 

But officials made it clear that there would be extensive opportunities for feedback from all sides, promising a “robust stakeholder engagement process” would begin by the end of the year. 

It’s apparent that “robust” was no misnomer, either. After the announcement, a litany of organizations issued statements on the state’s decision. 

The organizations ranged from highly supportive of the EPA’s rule to strongly condemning it, yet were unified in their endorsement of the state’s decision. 

Among them were Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Solar King, SUR Energy, Michigan Solar & Wind Power Solutions, Invenergy, A Renewable America, Clean Energy Now, Michigan Environmental Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Ceres, Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America–Michigan Chapter, MI Air MI Health, Michigan Catholic Conference, and the Christian Coalition of Michigan. 

“We believe it’s in the best interest of all Michigan residents that the state should chart its own course, taking prudent steps today that could reduce costs tomorrow,” reads the statement from DTE Energy. 

The final version of the rule calls for Michigan to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to hit goals in two metrics by the year 2030.  

The state will have to reduce its net production of carbon dioxide from power plants about 32 percent — from about 69.9 million tons to about 45.4 million tons — but while also reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced with each megawatt-hour of power generated by 39.4 percent — from 1,928 pounds of carbon dioxide to 1,169 pounds. 

The higher goal for the emissions rate means energy producers in the state will likely have to transition production away from coal and towards sources like natural gas and renewable technologies. Even before the state’s plan will be put into effect, more than nine coal plants across the state are slated to close, Brader said.

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